Wednesday, June 5, 2013

 

Are these countries safe for women travelers?

A recent spike in violence, especially in popular tourist destinations like Mexico, India and Brazil, has raised questions about the safety and security of women while traveling.



 Safety of women travelers: German tourist Carolina De Paola, 22, walks near the landmark Gateway of India in Mumbai.
AP Photo: Rajanish Kakade. German tourist Carolina De Paola, 22, walks near the landmark Gateway of India in Mumbai. 
Exotic, vibrant, exciting and possibly dangerous? With the recent spate of stories about women running into trouble in foreign countries, is it safer or more dangerous right now for U.S. women travelers?

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told MSN News that although its travel warnings and alerts inform U.S. travelers about what they should or should not do, the agency can't prohibit someone from traveling somewhere if they want to.

INDIA

The alleged gang rape of an American woman in India Tuesday — which comes on the heels of a gang rape of a Swiss tourist and the apparent suicide of a British woman who jumped out of her hotel room after being intimidated — has once again put India in the spotlight, and not in a good way.
About 6.6 million international tourists visited India in 2012, generating $17.7 billion, and the Incredible India tourism campaign continues to tout it as a "safe destination."

According to a survey by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the number of tourists coming to India has dropped 25 percent since December, during peak tourist season, with a 35 percent plunge among female tourists, which the survey attributed to the "deteriorating standards of safety and security."

The survey found that foreign tourists were opting for other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Although the State Department doesn't include India on its list of travel warnings or alerts, it cautions U.S. citizens, especially women, against traveling alone in India. It talks about continuing reports of "verbal and physical harassment of Western women by groups of men," known locally as "eve-teasing," which can range from lewd comments to outright groping.
"While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, according to the latest figures by Indian authorities, rape is the fastest growing crime in India," it says. "Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are at risk and should exercise vigilance."

MEXICO

The FBI on Friday asked the public for any information on the kidnapping of a U.S. Marine reservist. Back in February, six men were arrested for raping six Spanish tourists at an Acapulco beach house.

The State Department website — which includes Mexico on its list of current travel warnings — says that millions of Americans travel to Mexico every year for study, tourism and business. Although there's no evidence that "transnational criminal organizations" have targeted U.S. tourists based on their nationality, "violence and crime are a serious problem throughout the country and can occur anywhere." U.S. citizens have been victims of TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.
The number of U.S. citizens reported to the State Department as murdered under any circumstances in Mexico was 113 in 2011 and 32 in the first six months of 2012.

BRAZIL

Warnings about strikes, political unrest, drug trafficking and Colombian terrorist groups dot the travel page for Brazil on the State Department website, along with petty theft, robberies and shootings.

Back in April, the gang rape of an American woman in Brazil's Copacabana beachfront neighborhood shocked many. "No one expects to be attacked in Disneyland, handcuffed and roughed up," Globo newspaper quoted Alfredo Lopes, the head of an association representing Brazil's hotel sector, the Associated Press reported. "Copacabana is our Disneyland."

According to the report, foreigners who never thought twice about walking around after dark or taking a cab are now taking extra precautions.

EGYPT

The State Department issued a travel alert for Egypt on May 15, warning U.S. citizens of "the continuing possibility of political and social unrest resulting from the Egyptian Revolution."
Last month, an American was attacked outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo after being asked whether he was a U.S. citizen. Instances of rape and assault in the country have set off a blame game, the New York Times reported in March. At least six Egyptian and foreign women were attacked by a mob in Cairo's Tahrir Square last June, and CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was attacked by a group of men while covering protests in the square.

So where is it safe to travel right now? Australia, France, Iceland and Germany are some of the relatively safe destinations, although the State Department urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution and remain vigilant while traveling there as well.MSN News

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